Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: IT Services Transformation - Review Approach and Outcomes
Year Submitted 2018
Awarded Second Prize
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Kathy Denney Project Manager
Roger Couldrey VP Administration
Name of Institution McMaster University
Office Address 1280 Main Street West
Gilmour Hall, Room 202
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8
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Telephone: 905-580-4145
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Roger Couldrey
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice President (Administration)
Office Address 1280 Main Street
Gilmour Hall, Room 202
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8
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Telephone: 905-525-9140 ext. 24755
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

In 2016, concerned with whether IT investments in a highly decentralized environment were optimized to deliver the university’s strategies, McMaster utilized an innovative approach for a review of its campus-wide Information Technology (“IT”) services to identify opportunities for improvements.  A committee of three external University Chief Information Officers and three internal faculty members, supported by a dedicated project manager, undertook a comprehensive, transparent and collaborative set of information gathering activities to ensure the Committee fully understood the current IT delivery model and developed recommendations that would fit within the institution's culture and environment.   These activities engaged key internal stakeholders and included a focused set of communication and feedback opportunities throughout the entire process. This unique approach allowed for a comprehensive and actionable list of recommendations that the University was immediately able to act upon, which fit its culture and environment, and covered the following areas:

  • IT Governance
  • Enterprise IT Leadership
  • Strategy
  • IT Service Model Optimization
  • Customer Service and Service Delivery
  • Organizational Design and Development
  • IT Infrastructure
  • Professional IT Practices and IT Service Management
  • Teaching and Learning IT Services
  • Research IT Services
  • Enterprise Administrative Computing
  • ERP Implementation and Sustainment
  • IT Funding
Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

This approach can be easily implemented at other institutions and McMaster has since utilized a similar model for subsequent service reviews.  Having the ability to utilize an existing framework and approach reduced start up time and helped bolster buy-in and credibility within the McMaster community.  Identifying suitable internal and external committee members is critical to the process, as is ensuring the inclusion and engagement of the entire community (through various inclusive information gathering activities, outlined in the next section, along with regular and consistent communication with stakeholders).   Lessons learned around increasing community member engagement and service descriptions can be shared. 

Quality Impact

The combination of internal and external committee members, along with a cohesive effort to engage and include key stakeholders throughout the review, resulted in an implementation plan that fit with the culture and environment and was well received by the community.  Results and progress updates were also shared with the McMaster community through planned internal communications efforts and included key messages to reinforce the importance of the review and the execution of recommendations.  Two of the key priorities of the review included overall leadership and accountability for the delivery of IT services institution-wide and the development of a comprehensive IT Governance structure.  As soon as the review report was delivered, McMaster commenced addressing the accepted recommendations, focusing on revising overall IT service accountability through a revised IT leadership role and implementing the recommended three-tier governance model.  These two critical activities (which have now been underway for a year) have allowed McMaster to start to address IT service needs on an institutional basis, aligning key IT projects to student, faculty and staff needs, building a community around IT delivery which will hopefully lead to increased trust and confidence in these services overall and the IT governance processes.   Key outcomes include:


  • Established the IT Governance structure and proposal review process; held 37 IT Governance meetings to assess priorities and review project proposals in 2017
  • Reviewed and prioritized 12 project proposals, approving an investment of $2.1 million dollars in funding for key IT projects aligned with student, faculty and staff priorities. At least 2 key projects had been previously rejected through budget processes. IT Governance allowed the benefits to students, faculty and staff to be considered along with the budget request.
  • Created 10 career growth opportunities identified for staff: 8 temporary and 2 permanent.
  • Held the first IT Forum for IT personnel from across the university, with over 193 participants.
Productivity Impact

The institutional scan undertaken as part of the IT review identified many departments and units that were providing the same or similar IT services with varying levels of service levels.  This was not unexpected in a structure that is extremely decentralized and has evolved over decades to meet local needs and requirements. One of the recommended next steps is a collaborative rationalization and optimization of IT services – determining basic needs vs. enhanced services and relevant priorities, identifying who is best placed to deliver those services, ensuring that the IT service delivery units are properly resourced, and obtaining community-wide agreement on service levels.  It is expected that process and resource efficiencies will result and, with this common delivery of basic services, the decentralized units will then be able to focus on value-added services to their local community.  Steps around this have started with the central IT unit offering service desk support for a few other departments, which will help assess the front-line support required for staff, students and faculty.   The new governance process in place, also allows for proposed projects being evaluated from an institution-wide perspective and efficiencies are realized across departments vs. when decisions were made in isolation across departments. In addition, the implementation of campus wide Microsoft Campus Licensing agreement has provided a more streamlined and visible opportunity for productivity software downloads, and to date has resulted in over $1 million in savings to McMaster students who are able to download this software at no cost.


External reviews are often performed in the higher education setting to address a variety goals and of objectives.  The innovation around this approach stems from having a committee with external experts and internal specialists from the academy.  The Committee's external perspective was critical to ensure that recommendations are credible, current and relevant in the higher education space and the internal perspective challenged the feasibility and appropriateness of recommendations in the McMaster environment.  The entire internal community was part of this process rather than being on the sidelines and the customized information-gathering activities allowed for collaboration and buy-in from staff, faculty and students.  These activities included:

  • over 75 submitted stakeholder feedback questionnaires.
  • 25 in-person feedback sessions with the Review Committee (including over 100 individual stakeholders from the staff, faculty and student community).
  • a comprehensive institutional scan, conducted by online survey, to collect information around IT service delivery, infrastructure and resourcing, across 35 units.
  • high-level institutional IT spend analysis.
  • institution-wide IT service satisfaction survey completed by 1275 faculty, staff and students.
  • continuous communication regarding status and information gathering results.
Supporting Documents